|Midwestern Dhamma Refuge
grounded in contemplative practice
for a peaceful, just, & sustainable society
To have "heard much" - that is, to be well-versed in the teachings - is often praised in Early Buddhism. Right View-Understanding guides the path, including meditation & daily practice of Dhamma, and itself arises from study & reflection. Consequently, Liberation Park encourages wise study of the Buddha's teaching as found in the Pali Suttas, and dialogue between those teachings and mindfully observed experience, especially when well grounded in regular meditation practice.
Note: This page is left online for reference. You may find the list of readings helpful. Currently, we don't have a short-term study series on offer in Chicagoland. There is, however, an on-going Sutta Study Group that has been meeting for 3 years (it's roots go back to Liberation Park's days in Oak Park). New members are incorporated from time to time.
We will continue exploring how the tussle of dealing with upset beings fits into a mindfulness-oriented life. Given the fears and stresses of modern existence, it goes with the territory that we will be surrounded by sentient beings going through various forms of upset, distress, angst, and reactivity. At times, we are one of them. Further, the Middle Way is in many ways at odds with the surrounding culture in terms of life choices, priority values, levels of affluence, and modes of being. The contradictions between individualism and non-clinging is one obvious practical example. How do we live out this path while compassionately responding to the energies in individuals and society that so often batter us? How do we skilfully interact with self-centererd behavior, whether at work, with friends, and within family, not to mention ourselves? How do we maintain composuse and kindness when confonted with their opposites?
Tangles within Tangles (SN 1:23; CDB 101)
Sallatha Sutta: The Dart of Painful Feeling (SN 36:6; CDB 1263)*
Lokavipatti Sutta: The Vicissitudes of Life (AN 8:6; NDB 1116)*
Upadaparitassanaa Sutta: Anxiety Due to Change (SN 22:7; CDB 865)*
Mode of Conduct without Suffering (SN 35:244; CDB 1248)
Any number of passages in The Udana and Itivuttaka inspire general principles. The John Ireland translation is pretty good.
e.g. Udana 3.10 and 5.1; Itivuttaka 75, 78, & 80 (in Threes), 27 (found in Ones), and 28 (found in Twos).
* These passages are in the excellent anthology, In the Buddha's Words, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications.
Please take note of ethical dilemmas you face within the reality of your life.
Are these issues you would like to explore with friends in light of Buddhist teachings?
- Coping with the plethora of stuff for sale at stores and on-line
- Staying healthy while navigating the for-profit medical system
- Partisan electoral politics & democracy: running on fear
- Carbon footprints day-by-day
With the divisiveness of mainstream politics and the rise of the Tea Party, Occupy movement, and other forms of protest, how may we apply Buddhist ethical principles? What is our responsibility these days? Do we engage or not? How?
On Skilful & Unskillful Action: Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta (AN 10:176)
How Governments Can Solve Crime & Poverty: Kutadanta Sutta (DN 5 sections 10-12; also in Walshe translation; 2nd online translation)
Roots of Hostility & Violence: Sakka-Panha Sutta (DN 21 excerpt)
On Quarrels & Disputes: Sutta-Nipata 4:11, 4:12, & 4:13
The population of Chicago is full of people who do the hard & dirty work that many of us shun, Midwestern agriculture cannot survive without them, and they keep costs down in many areas of the economy. Yet they are denied an easy path to legal status and are treated with spite. Thus, the live in an "illegal" limbo that cause much fear & stress for a huge number of families & communities.
Is it ethical & Dhammic to live dependent on people branded as "illegal"? What is our responsibility to them?
We will reflect on questions like these using Buddhist principles such as those found in the readings below.
On social castes & classes: MN 93: Assalayana Sutta
On relations between employers & workers: DN 31: Sigalovada Sutta (sections 31 & 32)
How governments can solve poverty: DN 5 Kutadanta Sutta (DN 5 sections 10-12, also suggested last time)
Abhayadana, the gift of non-fear, sanctuary, forgiveness
Kindness & generosity
Historically, Buddhist teachings recognize the interdependence of sentient beings and advocate non-harming. Now that few of us are farmers, herders, or fisherfolk, our primary interactions with animals are through the industrial farm economy, with those we keep as pets & companions, through the many products we use, medical and other, that depend on laboratory animals, and the impacts of modern society on ecosystems and their inhabitants. Within this greater complexity, and often greater distance, how do we apply ethical perspectives to our involvement with other species? How does the mistreatment of other sentient beings impact us, whether or not we know of it? To what extent are we responsible for their well-being, even if we never hear them moo, cheep, cry, or grunt?
We will reflect on questions like these using Buddhist principles. Finding new readings is taking some time. Please help find suttas concerning topics such as those listed below.
On the Benefits of Benevolence: the Metta Sutta (AN 11.16, A.v.342)
On non-harming, the fundamental ethical principle in Buddhism (e.g.1st and 2nd precepts): from the Dhammapada
On abhayadana, the gift of non-fear, sanctuary, & forgiveness
Not actually a sutta, but telling: The Hungry Tigress video and image
On animal sacrifice: condemned as cruel, wasteful, & superstitious The Sixteen Dreams (Jataka 77)
Animals deserve our respect gratitude: Nandivisala (Jataka 20)
On being each others' mothers: an important Tibetan perspective with a sutta basis somewhere
Definitions from Monastic Discipline: killing and harming animals
Rita Gross has some excellent, clearly argued reflections, working from core Buddhist fundamentals, on various ethical issues of modern life in her book Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues. The examples and methods of her carefully thought out chapters can help us work through the ethical issues that challenge us.
Many of us feel that the values of Buddhism are at odds with the mainstream culture that surrounds us and our families. How may we stay true to the healthy values we cherish and equip our children (and ourselves) to thrive within this culture and brutal capitalist society? How may we respond to the pressures to do raise our children and live in ways we see as dehumanizing, especially when these pressures come from family & friends?
While the issues that follow are not particularly Buddhist, Buddhism can address challenges such as these that face anyone who is trying to raise a family to be peaceful, non-materialistic, eco-conscious, etc.
- Mindfulness & Meditation - "I tend to get idealistic when I think of meditation. I picture a tranquil, monastic setting with long hours of uninterrupted concentration. In reality, I've never seen anything close to this. I get a few minutes of peace before I have to console a sobbing toddler because her pony tail is crooked. My thoughts feel very fragmented by the end of the day. I need to do a better job of dealing with the life of raising young children as it is, and not comparing it to some monastic ideal, which always leaves me lacking."
- Following Dhamma vs. The need to belong to the Mainstream - "On several occasions, I have heard a local teacher say something along the lines of "...not everyone needs to be a monk. We could all benefit from a little zen." But "a little zen" or "a little Dhamma" can be psychologically very stressful without the support of a well-grounded sangha (or a well-grounded personal practice)."
- Being at odds with my culture - "Sometimes it's no big deal ... last week I had to refuse a free "gift" of Air and Water Show passes. But sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing more damage to my psyche or my children's well-being. I've had job interviews for employers that have military defense contracts, or require grueling amounts of travel that I feel would disrupt my family life. I walk away only adding to my list of jobs that I won't do! In this economy, can a dad (provider?) be so picky?"
- Financial realities - "I set aside money for my kid's education with an Islamic firm that vowed not to invest in weapons, tobacco, etc. If I believed in the system, I could just go with the highest returning funds. By not pursuing wealth, am I limiting our kids' education prospects, our health care, retirement?"
- Individualism & Non-Clinging - "Living in the land of individualism, and trying to "cling to nothing whatsoever as I, me, or mine" provides for constant tension."
DN 31: Sigalovada Sutta on family relations & responsibilities
On right livelihood
Dhana Sutta: Treasure AN 7.6
Resources for livng life well & traversing the path.
Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta: Conditions of Welfare AN 8:54
Four essential conditions for material and spiritual welfare.
Freed of Fivefold Fear AN 9.5
Of the four powers listed here, the last, the power of benevolence is particularly relevant.